Dixie Pre-Majors open play in World Series on Saturday
PLAYING IN THE RAIN The reflection of Meridian Pre-Major's Nathan Peden is captured in a water puddle as he plays catch in the rain at John Moss Field Monday night. The team will play in the World Series in Thomasville, Ala. Photo by Kyle Carter/The Meridian Star
By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
July 22, 2003
Into everyone's life a little rain must fall, but a strong summer storm doesn't mean a team heading to a World Series tournament can take a day off.
The Meridian Dixie Pre-Majors gathered on a rain-soaked John Moss Field on Monday to prepare for their trip to Thomasville, Ala., to play in the 15-16-year-olds World Series that starts on Saturday.
With mosquitoes buzzing around the field, the squad was able to spend some time in the batting cages and toss the ball around a field that had numerous standing puddles.
"It's hard," said Meridian first baseman/third baseman Marcus Boyd of practicing in the less than ideal conditions. "But we have to do it. If you want to win the World Series, you have to be out here practicing."
The All-Star squad from Meridian earned its berth to the tournament in Thomasville, Ala., that runs through July 31, by winning the state tournament in Clarksdale last week.
Meridian defeated Purvis in the state tourney's championship game 8-4 for the title and the trip to the World Series.
"The World Series is a big thing," said Meridian coach Johnny Warren. "You are playing against other kids who are probably the best in their state. When you get to the World Series, you have to put everything you've got into it."
Meridian will need to string together five to six wins in order to return with the world title.
Coming back home with the World Series crown is not hard to imagine for the team that will represent Mississippi against squads from South Carolina, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the host team from Thomasville, Ala.
"I expected us to go a long way," said pitcher/third baseman/right fielder Parker Temple. "We have a lot of good players. At one time, we thought we could put any players from the All-Star team on the field and win a game. We are all pretty good players, and I think we have the potential to go a long way."
The trip to the big tournament has been a longtime coming for the group of 15 players that make up the squad.
Members of this year's incarnation of the Dixie Pre-Majors All-Star team have come close in the past to going to a World Series.
"It feels good," said pitcher Kyle Boswell of going to the World Series. "We've come in at fourth, third and second place (in the state). We've never actually got to go, and I just can't wait. It is real exciting."
Team members said they have jelled together better this season than they have in the past.
They also said growing up both physically and mentally has translated in their ability to notch wins on the field.
"We've matured, and we play better together now," said second baseman Michael Davis. "It is not just certain players carrying the team. It is everybody."
Meridian will bring more than just a wiser, more cohesive team to the World Series.
The squad has one of the most intimidating pitching staffs in its age group. "We've got several kids that really bring the ball," Warren said. "We have Tyler McMullen, Kyle Boswell, a left-hander Kedrick Martin, another left-hander Anthony Linton, Parker Temple, Cory Chance and then we have one or two who can come in and throw a couple innings in relief."
Nearly everyone on the team can pitch, and each pitcher brings his own style to the mound.
Meridian has pitchers that can throw equally hard from the left or right, and the team has a few pitchers that throw in a submarine style giving batters a much different look.
"This year's teams compared to the last few years is a lot stronger," McMullen said of the pitching staff. "That is a good thing when you get this deep in playing. In the World Series, you have to play a lot of games, and you could run out of pitching sooner or later. Pitching is one of the big keys you just have to have."
Warren said the team will need to improve its offense to make a run at the title.
The players said adjusting at the plate will not be a problem at the World Series.
"We just need to shorten up and be more selective with our pitches," said shortstop Chris Harris.
Meridian leaves for Thomasville, Ala., on Friday, and the squad will open the World Series against South Carolina at 1 p.m. Saturday.
While no one can predict how the team will fair, one thing is certain Meridian will have plenty of support in Alabama.
"I would like to thank all of the parents for their support," Warren said. "We had a good group of parents go to Clarksdale with us. I also want to thank the people of Meridian, Lauderdale County and Kemper County who gave donations to help us with our travel expense. Without them, we wouldn't be able to do the things that we do."